Disclosure: Please note that links to merchants mentioned within this post might be using an affiliate link which means that - at zero cost to you - I might earn a commission if you buy something through that affiliate link. That said, I never recommend anything I don’t personally use and find to be a valuable asset to my business.

How Bloggers Can Fix a Manual Penalty Caused by Compensated Content & Reviews


  1. Casey Markee says:

    Fantastic write-up Rae, thanks!

    However, you didn’t mention “app links” though which is something Google specifically communicated in their 3/11 statement as something blog owners need to address.

    Those links, like those to sponsor social accounts, should also be nofollowed and be an audit target as bloggers work through these penalties.

    It’s also worth noting that with Easy Recipe STILL not updating their plugin in 2016 to be compliant with Google’s new Structured Data guidelines, it may be better to just replace it completely and go with something like Meal Planner Pro or Zip Recipes which have been fully updated to not show the star ratings markups without actual reviews by default.

    Since, as you said, most of the bloggers affected by these may be single-owner operations, it also wouldn’t hurt to make sure they understand that they can use Google Search Operator searches like the below to better surface some of the content they “may” have forgotten to nofollow:

    site:yoursite.com intext:disclosure
    site:yoursite.com intext:freebie
    site:yoursite.com intext:giveaway
    site:yoursite.com intext:sponsored
    site:yoursite.com intext:sponsor

    I would also just like to add that there was some “expert” advice earlier this week that these bloggers should NOFOLLOW all their links (which you addressed) and I think that’s HORRIBLE advice. An issue Google addressed with Jennifer Slegg over at The SEM Post yesterday.

    Thanks again for the great writeup. I’ll share it in our chat with Food Blogger University on Friday.

    • Thanks for sharing the additional info Casey! I agree on nofollow as I mentioned in the post. Unfortunately, it’s the easy route, so a lot of bloggers will probably take it. However, I’m a big believer in doing things the right way – which doesn’t always equate to the easiest way.

    • I am not seeing a link to Easy Recipe’s website at all in the plug in as activated on my site. I don’t use the star ratings in the plug in. I even checked the coding and still don’t see a link. So perhaps turning off the star rating will also solve the issue without needing to upgrade. Unless I’m just missing it!

      • Do you use the free version or the paid version? I see the credit link in a LOT of sites using it showing “WordPress Recipe Plugin by EasyRecipe” linked to their site with the paid version of the plugin via:

        <div class="ERSLinkback"><a class="ERSWRPLink" href="http://www.easyrecipeplugin.com/" title="EasyRecipe WordPress Recipe Plugin" target="_blank">Wordpress Recipe Plugin by <span class="ERSAttribution">EasyRecipe</span></a></div>

        …in the source code.

        It’s also shown in the screenshots they published for the free version of the plugin on WordPress. :)

  2. Thanks for this post Rae, but I have a question. How will adding a no follow attribute to paid advertising and affiliate links affect your income and what you can/can not promote? I’m not clear but it seems like Google is harming sites not devoted to the Google Ad platform. Thanks in advance for taking time to read this.

    • Adding a nofollow to affiliate links has no effect on your affiliate earnings. You get paid when you produce sales and the nofollow attribute is a behind the scenes thing that doesn’t affect whether or not you’re credited with an affiliate sale. I believe Google knows enough to discount links the bigger affiliate networks – it’s the indie programs where the affiliate links are housed on the merchant’s domain that are an issue for Google.

      However, I cloak all of my affiliate links, so they’re running through redirects in a blocked folder on my sites anyway. Which means they aren’t passing any link value – whether or not they include a nofollow. Best practice wise, you should always cloak and nofollow your affiliate links. The latter for Google, the former for you.

      As far as standard advertising, that’s long been the dilemma in the blogging community. Google created a currency around links with their algorithm – so links that pass value in that algorithm have a higher value. So, if you don’t nofollow the link, advertisers are willing to pay more, but you could get penalized. If you do nofollow the link, you make less money, but you help defend against your site receiving a penalty for paid links. If you’re not dependent on Google traffic, then you can do what you want. But if you are dependent on Google traffic, then you’ll need to play ball using their rules to maintain said Google traffic.

      All ads placed by the major ad networks – which, yes, includes AdSense, but also numerous others – run through redirects and don’t pass any SEO value. It’s the independent ads publishers place on their site that are affected by this. I agree it sucks, but it is what it is.

  3. Stephanie Stant says:


    Thanks for this valuable information.

    I want to make sure I understand exactly what needs to be changed with regard to affiliate ads and paid/compensated content

    Note: We have a site-wide disclaimer about how we earn money through ads and sponsorships, and we also call attention to ad links and sponsored links in posts on an individual basis.

    Please check out my to-do list below and let me know if I missed or misunderstood anything. Thanks!

    1. Go to all sidebar ads and replace existing ad links with no-follow links (per the instructions you provided above)
    2. Go to all sidebar sponsorship spots and replace existing sponsorship links with no-follow links (per the instructions you provided above)
    3. Go to all sponsored content (blog posts) and change out any links to the companies that sponsored those posts just as I’ll be doing in #1 and #2 above. I do not need to replace all links in all posts, just those links that take my site visitors to the sites of advertisers or sponsors IF they advertised on or sponsored that blog posts’ content, correct?

    Thanks for your help,

    • Yes re 1, 2 and 3. Also, if you’re looking to any other pages that might benefit the post sponsor within it (such as their Twitter or a store that sells their product), those need to be nofollowed as well.

      Keep in mind too – you may end up with an email or two from unhappy folks who advertise or sponsored posts that are upset you now have nofollowed their link. It’s an unfortunate side effect, but as I said in a comment above, what makes Google happy may not always make your sponsors happy.

  4. Stephanie Stant says:


    I have one more question – how do you do this?

    “I cloak all of my affiliate links, so they’re running through redirects in a blocked folder on my sites anyway.”



    • I use Pretty Link Pro (affiliate) to nofollow all of my affiliate links and disallow the base folder those redirects are housed in within my robots.txt file. I used to have a tutorial on why and how I cloaked affiliate links, but it details out the process with a plugin I no longer recommend. I’ll add writing an updated version of that post to my list of to-dos. :)

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